Hacksaw Ridge


Viewed – 30 May 2017  online-rental

It would be easy to be a little bit cynical about ‘another war movie’ after how many we’ve had over the years, and comparisons with some of the greats are inevitable.  However this based on a true story drama at least has an interesting perspective of one such time in the second world war.  Andrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss, a pacifist war objector and medic who refuses to carry a weapon despite being part the battle of Okinawa … and becomes a hero when he saves the lives of more than 70 soldiers during a brutal siege against the Japanese. 

Hacksaw-Ridge

Director Mel Gibson’s movie for me began familiar…Desmond leaves his sweetheart to join the army, his drunk father is against him signing up, and we also get a shouty drill instructor played by Vince Vaughn doing his best R Lee Ermy impression.  So initially I was thinking this was just going to be a re-tread of say Full Metal Jacket or Saving Private Ryan.  Thankfully though with the focus on Desmond this became more than simple war movie cliché and actually an enthralling story of one man’s fight to stand by his beliefs whilst still managing to make a difference.  The war scenes that come fairly late on are unashamedly brutal yet visceral showing that Gibson has lost none of his flair for gruesome battles that he showcased so well in Braveheart.  Also add to this that the movie has some interesting, humbling character arcs, such as certain characters starting out unlikeable and then becoming someone I cared about etc.  Also I was glad to see that the otherwise ruthless Japanese army were not painted entirely one dimensional, with a few welcome moments showing soldiers scared or not entirely wanting to be a part of what they were involved in.  It made for a well rounded and well written account of a what must have been a horrific time in history. 

I was left a little puzzled by where Desmond’s elder brother disappeared to considering he signed up to join the army before Desmond but then the movie forgot about him.  Just an observation.  However, Garfield not exactly an actor I’ve ever warmed to, who was miscast in Spiderman is thankfully a revelation here, convincing and probably a career best from him … helped by several solid supporting turns. 

Simply put – a must see.

Verdict:  5 /5

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Mad Max: Fury Road


Viewed – 04 June 2015  Cinema

I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the Mad Max series, other than a few memories of catching glimpses of the movies growing up (I’ll always remember the sight of a razor sharp boomerang being flung and slicing off someone’s fingers) and well, that Tina Turner song.  However I went into this fairly blind but knew I was getting a fairly high-octane post-apocalyptic action movie.  By high-octane however I wasn’t quite prepared for just how bat-shit crazy this film actually turned out to be.

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Everyone’s favourite chiselled hard man Brit actor Tom Hardy plays the wondering hero Max, who as we meet him gets captured by a vicious gang and taken to a settlement where a psychotic overlord keeps the peasants in line by restricting the water flow and well, doing unimaginable things to the women (a milking farm?).  That is until one of his best soldiers, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa steels a convoy vehicle and heads off into the wasteland, with some of the evil overlord’s finest women hidden inside.  Thus sets up the biggest chase in movie history as this guy send all hell after his women of which one is pregnant with his child.

MadMax-FuryRoad-ImmortanJoeThis is a wild and unrestrained viewing experience … from the get-go it’s full on, in your face, chaotic and pretty damn overwhelming.  I had a bit of a tough time holding on for the ride as we get speeded up editing that made me dizzy and more screams and nut jobs and cars exploding than I think I’ve ever seen before.  The sight of one vehicle with several nutty henchmen beating big base drums on the back, whilst on the front some metal god strums an electric guitar – and I knew I’d been transported to a world truly in the eye of a mad genius.  Director George Miller, who also made all the previous Mad Max films, is on blistering form and this is an intense explosion of energy and visual spectacle that rarely lets up.  Theron is very good as Furiosa with her cool look, complete with robotic arm and skull-cracking attitude – the whole movie centres around her plight and you do care for her and her entourage of pretty young things.  Of course we can’t conclude without talking about Tom Hardy’s Max, which he plays as the grizzled loner troubled by visions of his dead daughter, yet bar a bit of narration and a few words here and there, grunts his way though the whole movie – which makes him a bit sidelined, surprisingly.

The movie’s unrelenting pace and intensity did get a bit much, and the story failed to bring anything to the concept that we haven’t seen many times before.  So see this if you want to be shaken in your seat from a roller-coaster of excitement.  See it for some stunning visual spectacle.  Maybe not so much for everything else.  Welcome to the apocalypse.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Machete Kills


Viewed – 06 August 2014  Netflix

I’m a little concerned.  Robert Rodriguez, that indie wonder kid, best buds with Quentin Tarantino and director of such classics as Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City, has been making more of a name for himself lately as the poster boy for the grindhouse genre.  Tarantino was wise to just dip his toe in it before delivering the double whammy of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained.  Yet the imminent arrival of the hotly anticipated Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has been slightly wilted by Rodriguez’s z-grade obsession … which going by the reviews, got old very quickly.

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This follow-up to the movie inspired by a trailer in the middle of that Grindhouse double feature calamity, finds hulking Mexican for hire Danny Trejo as bounty hunter and former marshal ‘Machete’ who gets hired by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen … er, yes) to bring down a crime lord who is threatening to send a missile to nuke Washington.  Yeah it’s stupid and it’s the sort of plot you’d find in an 80’s TV show or some movie in a flea pit of a cinema that had run out of porn … but it’s a concept, played fully tongue-in-cheek that makes for highly entertaining tosh.

Rodriguez clearly loves the material and although it lacks some of the sucker-punch moments of the previous one it still had enough comical ideas (the speeder from Star Wars, ‘Machete don’t tweet’…) that bored is not something I could be.  Co-starring a cast you almost have to read twice to believe, yes Sheen as well as Cuba Gooding Jnr, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady GaGa (!) and even Mel Gibson – this could have been a riot.  Yet due to that intentional grindhouse style, its all done badly; the acting is only passable (although Gibson is great) and the effects, stunts and even the gore are amateurish (with a surprising lack of nudity).  Yeah I get it, it’s all part of the joke … but does detract from some of the movie’s bigger moments. 

One to watch with beer, friends and your brain on auto-pilot.  Is it wrong I actually want to see ‘Machete Kills again – in space’ ??

Verdict:  3 /5

How I Spent My Summer Vacation


Viewed – 27 September 2012  Blu-ray

aka Get The Gringo

For a time I began to feel we had seen the last of a decent Mel Gibson film, that versatile actor / director who gave us stellar performances in the likes of Lethal Weapon, Ransom and Braveheart.  Yet despite various social scandals and religious outbursts it seems this actor is crawling his way back … and if nothing else, this proves that Gibson has still got it.

Mel plays a crook who following a Police chase across the Mexican border, gets caught with $2 million of mobster money, and is subsequently thrown in a Mexican prison.  Now this isn’t no ordinary prison, but more a closed off town where families and children can live with the in-mates.  Soon Mel befriends a young, street-wise boy who confesses that a local mob leader, who pretty much runs the prison wants to take his liver due to a medical condition.  So then it’s up to Mel to figure out a way of not only helping the boy and his mother, but eventually escaping.

Mel Gibson is on fine form, playing it very much as if his character ‘Porter’ from Payback had been thrown in a prison.  The supporting cast is almost entirely Mexican, meaning the movie has a lot of subtitles, which did feel distracting at times. However performances all round are decent (especially Kevin Hernandez as the boy) and the action and situations kept me guessing. Former Assistant Director Adrian Grunberg (in his directing debut) has delivered a beautifully shot and energetic thriller that’s often lighthearted (with a comically dry voice over), but also down and dirty violent when it needs to be.

A thoroughly enjoyable nights viewing.

Verdict: 4 /5

Braveheart


Viewed – 07 November 2009  Blu-ray

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with these sort of historical swords & sandals epics.  I wouldn’t normally jump at the prospect of a near 3 hour movie about some Scots barbarian, but with some exceptions to the rule, most notably Ridley Scott’s superb Gladiator, I can be made to see something special in a movie that is mostly about men killing one another on a battle field.  Mel Gibson plays legendary Scottish hero William Wallace, who in the 13th century stood up against an oppressive English regime headed by ruthless King Edward ‘The Longshanks’, and paved the way for Scotland to become its own free country. 

Now what helps such a serious subject be palatable and even entertaining is the charisma on show from Gibson’s character and the group of underdog rap-scallians that make up his posse, add to this the superb cinematography, a stirring score by James Horner and a story packed with genuine heart, and this has something for any real movie lover.  Yes it’s very bloody, the battles unflinching in their violence, but none of it feels gratuitous.  The supporting characters, especial Patrick McGoohan’s evil King are complexly crafted, with Sophie Marceau’s sensual Princess Of Wales enriching every scene she appears in.  But overall, this is Gibson’s film, and he is a revelation, handling the emotions and the feel-good speeches with real conviction, proving him a true Hollywood icon – he even carries off the accent with never a doubt in your head.

The Blu-ray as hoped is impeccable, with an exhaustive amount of information covering both the production and the real life source material, with a whole second disk devoted to reconstructions of the battles and candid historical documentaries to give a fully rounded interpretation on what really went on all those hundreds of years ago.  The movie itself is in great shape too, with the high-definition treatment shining, and bringing the Scottish highlands to vivid life.  Add to this a beefy DTS HD Master Audio track, complete with a feature-length commentary from Mel Gibson and Bonus View picture in picture footage to watch during the movie – and this is just plain and simple an essential purchase.

Verdict:  5 /5